I sit here in awe and admiration on every level.
This morning, I ran across Kanye West’s Runaway, his first short film that premiered a couple days ago. I’m not going to outline the whole film, you can/should click the link and watch it for yourself. Make sure you’ve set aside the time because it is 35 minutes long.
Let me begin by saying that this is a film as West has described it himself. As I was watching it, my little cousin looked over my shoulder and asked “what are you watching?” because glancing at this will rise questions in any passerby. Then (after he saw Mr. West on screen) he said “Oh, this is the Kanye video!” “It’s not a video,” I snapped back, “it’s a film.”
Now I know I shouldn’t have given him that much attitude, but he caught me in the midst of the dinner scene where West brings his new “girlfriend” to dinner and everyone is –ironically — appalled by her. There are various images and scenes in this film that warrant exploration, but this one scene is my favorite. All the dinner guests are Black. There is really no variation in skin tones among them, either. They are all a beautiful deep brown, contrasting, first with the dinner setting (everything is white) and the people serving their food (also all white). There is something the tugs at me with this image of pale, blue-eyed, blonde haired girls serving this table of –what look like and most likely are — the descendants of African Kings and Queens.
The film is loaded with imagery deserving of discussion. Like the conversation at the dinner table that sets West off or the people marching wearing red KKK-ish outfits. The small bits of conversation had within the film (ie: “Don’t pay attention to anything you hear on the news.”) are without doubt purposeful and bold statements that are a watered down version of the Kanye we’ve experienced in the past.
I took a class on Underground film once in which we studied the likes of Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. We watched and discussed their films in depth. Some films had a plethora of meaning —like Dali’s Un Chien Analou (1929) — while others were more open to artistic interpretation like Warhol’s Mario Banana (1964). I believe that Mr. West should be studied in the same degree the rest of these artists are studied. If a Warhol filming a tranny eating a banana can be considered art, Mr. West should face no opposition in the art world. I don’t think West’s work has any less integrity than these men. To write him off because he is involved in (and actually enhanced the integrity of) Hip-Hop, is to make a grave mistake. Being a Pop icon shouldn’t shadow an artist’s work –although it always does and the situation becomes even more complex and taxing with the amount of melanin in that person’s skin tone.
People need to learn Kanye West. Similar to how I told this Mac’s dictionary to learn spelling of Kanye and never put a dotted red line under this name again. (I wish I could right click on people.) Mr. West, in my opinion, is a vault of artistic genius. I’m am greatly pleased by this video and encourage all to see it. I truly believe it’s going to hit two different levels, though. The film is entertaining enough to hold the attention of a mass audience, but if taken into the classroom, could spark wondrous conversation.
Here’s what this video says to me: Kanye West is an artist. While we give him his “respect” now, his posthumous fame is going to be greater than we can imagine. And as an artist with so much public attention, combined with his personal dealing with life, love and loss… he is somewhat dangerous. Toni Morrison wrote in her novel, Sula, “Like any artist without an art form, [he will] become dangerous.” I just read into Van Gogh because West mentions the artist in “Power (Remix)”, and found out that Van Gogh shot himself in the chest after a long streak of depression. I sincerely hope Mr. West has found himself and his art, his art in himself and himself in his art. I worry about him…We, as a society, need to lay off him and understand that he is a normal person. I mean…..Let he without sin cast the first stone… I don’t have to tell you what book that’s from.
Mr. West is a master. A master of audible sound, written verse, combinations of fabrics and name brands, visual entertainment, truth and honesty. Thank you, Mr. West. Thank you for coming back to us and bringing Hip-Hop with you. Thank you.
Hip-Hop, welcome back, babe. I’ve missed you.